FAO in Tanzania

Tanzania approves registration of FAO-supported biopesticide for fighting fall armyworm

Field trials of the biopesticide

Researchers in Tanzania have developed a special biopesticide that fights the highly destructive fall armyworm (FAW) pest that threatens food security and livelihoods in the country.

A team of researchers from the Arusha-based Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology led by Ms. Never Zekeya Mwambela with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted both field and laboratory trials of the biopesticide.

According to Ms. Mwambela, the biopesticide is based on the fungus called Aspergillus oryzae and is dubbed ‘Vuruga’ due to its ability to destroy FAW.

The process 

The researchers’  team leader, who began working on FAW control projects over two years ago as part of her PhD research, first isolated the Aspergillus oryzae fungus, and then injected it into FAW larvae at its various stages. She then determined the appropriate concentration for application with successful field trials conducted in different locations in the country.

Through the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control programme, FAO has taken the lead in responding to FAW. “One of the Global Action’s key components is reducing crop yield losses due to FAW, which can be achieved by getting effective biopesticides to farmers,” says Baitani Mushobozi a Plant Protection and Integrated Pest Management Specialist at FAO in Tanzania.

According to him, the research by Ms. Mwambela and her team, whose trials were conducted in eight regions, was facilitated through a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) by FAO, involving the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the European Union (EU) funded STOSAR project.

Explaining about the Vuruga registration process, Mr. Mushobozi said that there is a rigorous procedure of quality assurance for biological control products in Tanzania to ensure quality and safety.

The National Plant Protection Advisory Committee is the body that provides approval for product registration after recommendation by the Biocontrol Agents Subcommittee (BCAS), he explained.

“The latter is a technical body comprised of internal stakeholders from academia who understand plant protection; as well as representatives of research institutes, pesticide regulators and environmental scientists,” he pointed out.

Field trials

This was after the evaluation of the pesticide’s evaluation through field trials that also included farmers’ participation, Mr. Mushobozi went on adding:

“The trials were supervised by the NBCC and conducted at numerous locations representing multiple agroecological zones, with a minimum of three replications and for at least two seasons.”

Vuruga followed this whole procedure with a final approval for its registration having been issued by NPPAC in June this year, clearing the way for mass production to make it available to farmers across the country.

“The biopesticide is expected to be a major boost in controlling FAW, which has plagued farmers’ fields since its invasion in the country in 2017,” Mr. Mushobozi concluded.